Pavlinova Varvara

Russian spiritual verse in Mussorgsky’s historical dramas

Pavlinova Varvara (2021) "Russian spiritual verse in Mussorgsky’s historical dramas ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia V : Voprosi istorii i teorii hristianskogo iskusstva, 2021, vol. 43, pp. 89-106 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturV202143.89-106


This article is the first to raise the question of the place and role of poetics of Russian spiritual verse in the historical dramas by M.P. Mussorgsky Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina. The first steps of scientifi c understanding of the spiritual verse tradition and the study of the history of its carriers, kaliky perekhozhie (‘wandering minstrels’), are highlighted. Chronologically, scientifi c experiments, primarily those by F.I. Buslaev and I.I. Sreznevsky, directly preceded Mussorgsky’s work on his opera masterpieces. The choir of Kaliky perekhozhie in the Prologue of Boris Godunov is Mussorgsky’s fi rst appeal to this tradition. In the article, choir is analysed comprehensively. Attention is drawn to diff erent levels of its verbal text content, and diff erent hypotheses of its interpretation are proposed. Based on the analytical observations by B.V. Asafi ev, the article explains the meaning of the rhythmic formula of the chorus as a leithrhythm of the opera that unites folk scenes, but also extends to the portrayal of Tsar Boris. An opinion is expressed about the special role of the Kaliky choir in the opera Boris Godunov as a metaphorical epigraph. The role of poetics of the spiritual verse and its specifi c samples in the formation of the Khovanshchina, as well as the historical atmosphere of folk musical drama, are noted. In Boris Godunov, the composer eff ectively solved the aesthetic problem of historicism, the meaning of the symbols of church culture. In Khovanshchina, religious performances are folklorised and shown through an important aspect of the national consciousness, which off ered even more space for the composer’s creative refraction of the spiritual verse specifi city at different levels of musical style and drama. As a conclusion, an opinion is proposed about the signifi cant infl uence of the spiritual verse genre on Mussorgsky’s creative consciousness, which determined its subsequent interpretation in the Russian musical art.


Mussorgsky, Russian spiritual verse, kaliky perekhozhie, Boris Godunov, Khovanshchina, dramaturgy, poetics


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Information about the author

Pavlinova Varvara

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in Art Criticism;
Academic Rank: Associate Professor;
Place of work: Moscow state Tchaikovsky conservatory; 13/1 Ul. Bolʼshaia Nikitskaia, Moscow 125009, Russian Federation; St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University for the Humanities; 6/1 Likhov pereulok, Moscow, 127051, Russian Federation;
Post: associate professor;
ORCID: 0000-0002-6910-6386;
Email: v.pavlin@mail.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.